- Humanist Celebrant Handbook (PDF 521KB)
Read through the Humanist Society’s official handbook with information on business development, legal matters, ceremonies, sample readings, and much more.
- Marriage Laws
For your convenience, we’ve compiled information from USMarriageLaws.com. Any questions about your state marriage laws should be directed to your local county clerk’s office.
As an additional benefit, all couples married by a Humanist Society Celebrant are eligible for a free, one-year membership in the American Humanist Association. Submit their contact information to Rachael Berman (rbermanamericanhumanistorg) to activate their membership.
- The Humanist Institute
For those who wish to broaden their knowledge and studies of humanism, the Humanist Institute exists to equip humanists to become effective leaders, spokespersons, and advocates in a variety of organizational settings, including within the humanist movement itself. We explore humanist values and train future leaders.
- Sample Ceremonies
Sample Wedding Vows and Ceremony
by Humanist Celebrant Emeritus Larry Reyka
Various Wedding Vows
To care for, honor, and cherish you as long as we both shall love.
I take you as my wedded [wife/husband], to share my life with you, and pledge that I will love, honor, and care for you in tenderness and affection in all the varying circumstances of our lives.
I acknowledge my love and respect for you and invite you to share my life as I hope to share yours. I promise always to recognize you as an equal individual and always to be conscious of your development as well as my own. I shall seek through kindness and understanding to achieve with you the life we have envisioned.
promise you, [Name],
that I will be your [wife/husband] from this day forward,
to be faithful and honest in every way,
to honor the faith and trust you place in me,
to love and respect you in your successes and in your failures,
to make you laugh and to be there when you cry,
to care for you in sickness and in health,
to softly kiss you when you are hurting,
and to be your companion and your friend,
on this journey that we make together.
Do you [Name] take this [woman/man] to be your lawful wedded spouse, to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, to be true to [her/him], through times of sorrow as well as joy? Do you promise this heart, body, and mind? Do you commit to honor this vow all the days of your life?
I take you to be my spouse, in equal love, as a mirror for my true self, as a partner on my path, to honor and to cherish, in sorrow and in joy, till death do us part.
I will always be there for you, shelter and hold your love as the most precious gift in my life. I will be truthful and honor you. I will care for you always and stand by you in times of sorrow and joy.
I pledge to you endless strength that you can count on when you are weak. I’ll be your music when you can’t hear, your sunshine when you can’t see, or your perfume when you can’t smell. You’ll never need to look further than me. I’ll be your days and nights when you need them filled, your spark of life in the darkness, your hope when you’re down and out.
(To All:) We are gathered here, not to witness the beginning of what will be, but rather what already is! We do not create this marriage, because we cannot. We can and do, however, celebrate with [Bride] and [Groom] the wondrous and joyful occurrence that has already taken place in their lives.
(To [Bride] and [Groom]:) True marriage is more than joining the bonds of marriage of two persons; it is the union of two hearts. It lives on the love you give each other and never grows old, but thrives on the joy of each new day. Marriage is love. May you always be able to talk things over, to confide in each other, to laugh with each other, to enjoy life together, and to share moments of quiet and peace, when the day is done. May you be blessed with a lifetime of happiness and a home of warmth and understanding.
Will the two of you please join hands?
No other human ties are more tender and no other vows more important than those you are about to take. Both of you come to this day with the deep realization that the contract of marriage is sacred as are all of its obligations and responsibilities.
Celebration of Marriage
(To [Bride] and [Groom]:) Treat yourselves and each other with respect, and remind yourselves often of what brought you together. Take responsibility for making the other feel safe, and give the highest priority to the tenderness, gentleness and kindness that your connection deserves. When frustration, difficulty and fear assail your relationship, as they threaten all relationships at some time or another, remember to focus on what is right between you, not only the part that seems wrong. In this way, you can survive the times when clouds drift across the face of the sun in your lives, remembering that, just because you may lose sight of it for a moment, does not mean the sun has gone away. And, if each of you takes responsibility for the quality of your life together, it will be marked by abundance and delight.
May you always need one another, not to fill an emptiness, but to help each other know your fullness. May you want one another, but not out of lack. May you embrace one another, but not encircle one another. May you succeed in all important ways with each other, and not fail in the little graces. May you have happiness, and may you find it in making one another happy. May you have love, and may you find it in loving one another.
Taking in the Moment:
(To All:) We are here today to join [Bride] and [Groom] in a life of mutual commitment. It is fitting and appropriate that you, the family and friends of [Bride] and [Groom], be here to witness and to participate in their union. For the ideals, the understanding, and the mutual respect which they bring to their life together had their roots in the love and friendship and guidance you have given them. The union of two people makes us aware of the changes wrought by time. But the new relationship will continue to draw much of its beauty and meaning from the intimate associations of their past.
(To [Bride] and [Groom]:) Now, take a moment to forget all the stress of planning this day and simply enjoy your friends and family who gathered to spend this day with you. This group of loved ones will, likely, never be together in the same place again. Take a moment now to think about how each person has touched your life and why they are here with you today.
Also, bear in mind all those not with you in body, but do not be sorrowful for you know all those who love you and ever have loved you are here with you in spirit.
Ceremony of the Candles
(To [Bride] and [Groom]:) As this day you have made a new light together, may you also continue to recognize that separateness from which your relationship has sprung. May the lights of your own special lives continue to feed the new flame of love which can make your future — with its hopes and disappointments, its successes and failures, its pleasures and its pains, its joys and its sorrows — a future filled with warmth and love.
Reading 1: “The Prophet” by Kahlil Gibran
(Lindsey:) You were born together, and together you shall be forevermore. You shall be together when the white wings of death scatter your days. But let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of your love; let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your soul. Fill each others’ cup but drink not from one cup. Give one another of your bread but eat not from the same loaf. Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone. Even as the strings of a lute are alone, though they quiver with the same music. Give your hearts, but not into each other’s keeping. For only the hand of Life can contain your hearts. And stand together yet not too near together: for the pillars of the temple stand apart, and the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other’s shadow.
Reading 2: Blessing of the Apaches
(Jeff:) Now you will feel no rain, for each of you will be shelter for the other. Now you will feel no cold, for each of you will be warmth to the other. Now there will be no loneliness, for each of you will be companion to the other. Now you are two persons, but there is only one life before you. May beauty surround you both in the journey ahead and through all the years, May happiness be your companion and your days together be good and long upon the earth.
(To [Bride] and [Groom]:) [Bride] and [Groom], look at one another — remember this moment in time. Before this moment you have been many things to one another — acquaintance, friend, companion, and lover. Now you shall say a few words that take you across a threshold of life, and things will never be quite the same between you. For after these vows you shall say to the world, “This is my husband. This is my wife.”
([Groom]:) [Bride], today I take you to be no other than who you are, the woman I fell in love with, and now you give me the honor of being able to call you my wife. For that honor I promise to always be there to love you and make you smile, or to comfort and protect you. And I promise, that no matter what lies in our path it will be our path, and I will stay the man you fell in love with. I give you this ring as a token that I shall love you, in all times, in all places, and in all ways, forever.
([Bride]:) Today I choose to make a deeper commitment to you. It is my way of telling you that our experiences together have been so good that I want them to continue for the rest of my life. I loved you before the ceremony and I love you more because of it. You are everything I ever hoped to find in a partner. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I give you this ring as a token that I shall love you, in all times, in all places, and in all ways, forever.
Ceremony of the Rings
(To [Bride] and [Groom]:) Wedding rings are made precious by our wearing them. Your rings say that even in your uniqueness you have chosen to be bound together. Let these rings also be a sign that love has substance as well as soul, a present as well as a past, and that, despite its occasional sorrows, love is a circle of happiness, wonder, and delight. May these rings remind you always of the vows you have taken here today.
(To All:) We rejoice this day in the marriage of [Bride] and [Groom]. We celebrate the love that brought them to this day. With love that deepens through many years, may they know its meaning and its mystery — how we become truly one in sharing ourselves and one another, and yet, remain truly two in our own uniqueness. (To [Bride] and [Groom]:) May your house be a place of happiness for all who enter it, and a place where the old and the young are renewed in each others’ company, a place for growing, a place for music, a place for laughter. And when shadows and darkness fall within its rooms, may it still be a place of hope and strength for all who enter it, especially for those who may be entrusted to your care. May no person be alien to your compassion. May your larger family be the family of all humankind. And may those who are nearest to you and dearest to you constantly be enriched by the beauty and the bounty of your love for each other.
Breaking of the Glasses
(To All:) In the Jewish tradition, a glass is broken after the vows have been taken. There are many interpretations of this tradition. One is remembrance of the destruction of the Temple in ancient history. Another is to remember Kristallnacht, Crystal Night, when the holocaust began as the Nazis broke the glass of Jewish stores and homes. Another is that we want to remember that, while we here are joyous today as we celebrate a “mitzvah,” a happy occasion, there is sadness and tragedy in other parts of the world. In acknowledgment of that, [Bride] and [Groom] will each break a glass.
(To [Bride] and [Groom]:) [Bride] and [Groom], from this day forward your lives shall be woven of one design, and your perils and your joys shall not be known apart. As you increase in love and understanding, may your joys stand victoriously against the storm of circumstance that beats impartially on all our doors. From the rich encouragement of your affection, may you be inspired to open your doors to the needs you perceive in the world. In the embrace of mutual respect, may you each complete the unfinished pattern of your true selves. Let the passing of the days and the years deepen the love of your union and make it full of tenderness and grace.
May you strive all the rest of your lives to meet this commitment to each other with the same love and devotion that you now possess. Now since you have publicly promised your commitment to each other for all time. I call upon all gathered here to witness that according to the laws of the state of Ohio, you are now husband and wife. You may now seal this ceremony with a kiss.
Also please see the celebrants’ web pages on the directory page.
Sample Same-Sex Marriage
Hopefully the heroic efforts to recognize same-sex marriage by several states and the District of Columbia will set a precedent, but it may take several generations to enlighten the masses about the sanctity of all unions, regardless of gender configuration. But while the political process is painfully slow, we can make huge strides on a spiritual level by acknowledging same-sex partnerships in ceremony.
Gathering together in ritual with friends and family who offer love and blessings is an act that harnesses huge amounts of energy and leads to subtle changes in the rigid structures of the society. While many states and counties offer “domestic partnership” certificates, a ceremony that publicly declares your intent and commitment is extremely powerful, both socially and spiritually.
A sample same-sex ceremony will be uploaded soon. Thank you for your patience.
Funeral Ceremony by Humanist Chaplain B. Meredith Winn, Jr. (winnmmjraolcom)
“Look to this day! For it is life, the very life of life. In its brief course lie all the verities and realities of your existence:The Bliss of growth; the glory of action; the splendor of beauty; for yesterday is but a dream, and tomorrow is only a vision; But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness, and every tomorrow a vision of hope.Look well, therefore, to this day.”
Many centuries ago, a man named Kalidasa said those words that emphasize the importance of each and every day and what we make of it.This is such a day and we must make the most of it.
We gather here, caught on that cusp between the majesty of life and the mysteries of death.It is a balance we face every day, in some way or form. It was written that there is a time for every purpose under heaven, a time to be born and a time to die. Another writing says that it is appointed to man once to die, and then be judged. Perhaps it should say that it is appointed to men and women once to live.That is our challenge, to wring out of life it fullest measure of happiness, while accepting the finite nature of our mortal existence.
Rememberance of [Deceased]‘s Life
[Deceased] was a friend of my wife Marilyn and I never had the pleasure of meeting her, but Marilyn has told me a lot about her.
This ceremony is a rite of passage.We celebrate this life, this beautiful life, this mysterious life, this precious life that was [Deceased], this woman who loved family, home, work, and play; this honest, hard-working woman who gave no cause for dislike and every reason for admiration.Yes, it was appointed for [Deceased] once to live. This she did, and did graciously.She squeezed out of life the happiness that comes from giving and loving. Not with any pretension or selfish goal, but perhaps understanding that happiness does not come from getting, but from giving. There is no greater lesson than we can teach our children than that.
[Share brief biographical and/or personal account of the person's life.]
Moment of Silence and Shared Rememberances
[Pause, if anyone wishes to speak.]
May we join in a moment of mindfulness:”We clasp the hands of those that have gone before us, and the hands of those who come after us.We enter the circle of each other’s arms, and the larger circle of friends whose hands are joined as if in a dance; and the larger circle of all people, moving in and out of life, who move also in a dance, to a music so quiet we only hear it in fragments.” Amen (Wendell Berry, adapted)
A Letter From [Deceased]
With a seeming premonition of her passing, [Deceased] wrote the words she wanted to be remembered by.She titled it “My Final Say.”
[If the deceased had final wishes to share, present them now.]
Yes, we have gathered to celebrate [Deceased]‘s life. But even as this ceremony is about[Deceased], it is not for her, it is for you.It is your celebration, your acknowledgement of her among yourselves, your bow to her graciousness.
A life is a pinpoint where the universe convenes in each of us, then radiates back out to the stars through those we touch.
This ceremony calls us to remember our roots and our experiences. We all have different paths to walk, though they all lead to one place.It is the path that is important, not the end of the path, nor its beginning. Nor is it who we are born as, or what circumstances we find ourselves in.It is how we address our lives, how we spend the capital of “Self.”
Yes, it was appointed to [Deceased] once to live.We now declare her life a success, her life complete, her work done.May we dedicate ourselves to spend our measure of love as she did, before the time comes when we cannot understand how to do it.
Native American Blessing
I would like to close my remarks with a blessing from a Native American tradition:
“Hold onto what is good,
Even if it is only a handful of earth.
Hold onto what you believe,
Even if it is a tree which stands by itself.
Hold onto what you must do,
Even if it is a long way from here.
Hold onto Life,
Even when it is easier letting go.
Hold onto my hand,
Even when I have gone away from you.”
Blessed Be, and Amen.
This service is ended, but the true service has yet to begin.I now invite everybody to obey [Deceased]‘s demand that you have a party, and at that party, to remember her the way she wanted, with laughter.
Invocation for meeting by Humanist Minister Ross Hamilton Henry (rosshenrymaccom)
The great Ashoka, Buddhist Emperor of the Mauryan Empire in India around 2200 years ago wrote on one of his famous rock edicts:
“It is forbidden to decry another’s religion. The truly religious give honor to whatever in them is worthy of honor.”
It is implied in this statement that it is permitted to ‘decry’ or speak out against whatever in them is not worthy of honor.
Among the things we believe not worthy of honor is the rejection and condemnation of others who do not believe exactly as we believe even though those others may be good and kind and caring people who hold no hateful or unethical beliefs.
As we begin our thanksgiving celebration let us be mindful of these wise words from a truly tolerant and wise ruler. Let us adopt these words as our guide as we begin our deliberations today and show by the example of mutual understanding and cooperation between the religious organizations represented here that we believe that the Truly Religious stand for cooperation understanding and acceptance among all the people in our diverse culture.
Let it be our hope and our mission to spread this spirit to all the people of our community no matter what religious sect they proclaim.